Thunder on the Mountain canceled

June 16th, 2015 at 2:21 pm

There was reason to get excited about Thunder on the Mountain. The country music festival debuted in 2013, then took a year off in 2014.

We were told to expect a return in 2015, and dozens of acts, including headliners Carrie Underwood and Zac Brown Band, were booked for the affair.

It was all for naught.

On Saturday (June 13), Organizers announced a cancelation, citing circumstances out of their control. What that means, I’m not sure. We’ve heard rumors, and we’re checking in to them.

But I do know there are disappointed fans, and they are upset even though refunds are headed their way. Staff intern Jaime Dunaway looked for answers yesterday. Read her story online, if you get the chance.

I understand there will be an alternative, impromptu festival (though much smaller) in its place at Byrd’s the weekend of June 26-28. I’ll provide updates soon.

What do you think about the cancelation?

Soon in tunes: Dowsing, June 16 at the Lightbulb Club

June 16th, 2015 at 9:41 am



The Chicago indie pop outfit Dowsing will bring its current tour to The Lightbulb Club for a free show on Tuesday night (June 16). The quartet cites ’90s indie rock and emo as influences, as well as “geography” and “feelings.” Dowsing will be joined by Woozy, an experimental rock trio from New Orleans. The Fayetteville show begins at 9 p.m.

Concert review: Lady Antebellum, June 14 at the Walmart AMP

June 15th, 2015 at 2:29 pm

Lady Antebellum live at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion on June 14. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Democrat-Gazette.

Lady Antebellum live at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion on June 14. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Democrat-Gazette.

Pardon the sentimental start.

My sister got married Saturday night. She and her husband picked “One Great Mystery” by Lady Antebellum as their first song. They knew the song well; it obviously means something to them.

The song, on Lady Antebellum’s newest album, “747,” is sweet and it’s light and it talks of the hard-to-describe power of love. A pretty solid combo as far as wedding songs go, I’d say.

Sunday night (June 14), Lady Antebellum played at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers. They’ve had a busy week, playing at the CMT Awards (and picking up a win in the process), being selected as the first dance for my sister and brother-in-law and playing in Rogers.

Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum

Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum

The band on Sunday night was barely the same group that recorded “One Great Mystery.” Cranked up loud and with giant video boards behind them, Lady Antebellum went a different direction. Sure, technically speaking, the same three-headed attack of vocalist Hillary Scott, vocalist Charles Kelley and multi-instrumentalist Dave Haywood recorded both “One Great Mystery” and the lead single from the band’s newest album, “Bartender.” But “Bartender,” with it’s “lets throw them back” mentality, shares bonds with a million other songs on country radio right now. It’s potentially Lady Antebellum’s worst (meaning least original) song, and it’s one of their most popular. Go figure.

But Lady Antebellum wasn’t exactly pressured into diving into the softer parts of their repertoire, although the cover of “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, delivered from an auxiliary stage in the lawn area of the venue, was a tender moment. Little else could be described as “tender,” during their set, which covered 19 songs in 90 minutes. It mostly could be described as 90 minutes of mid-tempo contemporary country, which is a lot like pop music except for people drink in fields instead of clubs in country songs.

Part of the rock ‘n’ roll tilt to Sunday’s proceedings no doubt came from Hunter Hayes, who used his hour on stage to showcase his guitar playing skills and voice. He’s a country version of John Mayer — an excellent blues/soul musician who instead desires to write pop music but lets those influences creep in — but not quite take over — his sound. Unfortunately.

Lady AntebellumWEB002

Hayes also brought a first-class light and video system, using a combination of his own system and the same video boards used by Lady Antebellum. He ran around the stage, alternately playing guitar, mandolin and piano. His enthusiasm almost certainly pushed the tempo and tenor of the evening. He came back out twice during Lady Antebellum’s set, once during the song “Compass” and again during a cover of Shania Twain’s “Any Man of Mine,” which also featured opening act Kelsea Ballerini. I suspect some would argue that Hayes, occassionally a headlining act, outperformed the top billed artist of Sunday, and I’d put myself among them. He put the pressure on Lady Antebellum to make things move, and that’s what they did.

There was also the need to keep things moving for the fans, who filled or nearly filled the venue — I’d guess there were 8,500 in attendance. Those on the lawn got drenched courtesy of a brief but powerful rain storm that bullseyed the pavilion. No one left, and everyone showed up on a Sunday night. It’s one thing to sit stationary in the rain, it’s another thing altogether to dance in it. The bands gave them dance music, even Ballerini, who played a medley of pop hits by the likes of Britney Spears and N’Sync in addition to her current No. 2 country radio hit, “Love Me Like You Mean It.”

Many hits were played last night. Ballerini had her supporters. Ten likely members of the executive board of the Hunter Hayes fan club were two rows in front of me, and they consisted of nine 13-18 year-old girls and one 45 year-old man. All of them knew all of the words and belted them out, particularly for his biggest hit, “Wanted.” Lady Antebellum closed the night with a few of their biggest ones, too — “Need You Now” and “We Own The Night,” to name a few.

A jet-powered version of Lady Antebellum owned Sunday night, and in a weekend of happiness, many were happy for that very result.

Rolling on: Lady Antebellum bring ‘Wheels Up’ tour to Rogers

June 12th, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Lady Antebellum

Lady Antebellum

On Wednesday (June 10), country stars Lady Antebellum performed during the CMA Awards ceremony in Nashville, Tennessee. They also picked up the CMA for Group Video of the Year courtesy of their hit “Bartender.”

On Sunday (June 14), the band performs at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers.

Band member Charles Kelley recently chatted with the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s summer intern, Jaime Dunaway, about Lady A’s current tour and specifically about the song “Bartender.” The songs on the newest album, including “Bartender,” are a loud departure from their popular balladry of just a few years ago, he says.

Read Jaime’s story, which appeared in today’s What’s Up! section. It’s available on newsstands and also online.

Sunday’s show at the Walmart AMP begins at 7 p.m. Hunter Hayes will also perform. Tickets range from $35 to $65 and are available through the venue’s website.

See you at the show.

The weekend in music with The Sisters Sweet and more

June 12th, 2015 at 5:03 am

Sisters SweetWEB

The Sisters Sweet


I like to think those who read this blog are a pretty savvy bunch.

You don’t need my prompting to know it’s the weekend. You know a lot of the music heading our way, and you know how to read the concert calendar from your favorite local club just as well as I do.

So my job, I feel like, is to provide a little insight into the whys. Why would you go to a show? What’s so special about this one?

With that in mind, here’s the recommendations I can offer.

How about a homecoming for a local songwriter?

Candy Lee calls Fayetteville home, but she’s rarely in this town. Instead, she’s out on the road, performing solo or with her band. Having recently played at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas, Lee returns to Arkansas for about two weeks before taking off again. Lee and The Sisters Sweet will have a joint homecoming show Saturday (June 13) with fellow Arkansans Handmade Moments, who just returned from a trip to of Argentina. Admission to the concert at Smoke & Barrel Tavern in Fayetteville is $5.

Or how about a free show? Those are always good.

Country musician Mark Chestnutt charted several songs during his career, including the mid-1990s hits “Bubba Shot the Jukebox” and “Blame It on Texas.” The native Texan tours frequently, and he brings his live show to the Cherokee Casino in West Siloam Springs for an event tonight. Chestnutt goes on at 9 p.m. The show is free.

What else is happening this weekend?

Lady Antebellum headlines a show at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion this weekend, for one. Check back for details in a minute.

Also, blues guitarist extraordinaire Samantha Fish performs tonight at George’s Majestic Lounge. You might recognize her from Bikes, Blues & BBQ, where she’s performed before.

What are you hoping to catch this weekend?

Soon in tunes: Anthony D’Amato, June 11 at Gulley Park

June 10th, 2015 at 11:43 am

Anthony D'Amato

Anthony D’Amato

Folk and soul performer Anthony D’Amato has a busy summer lined up. He’s touring behind his newest album “The Shipwreck From the Shore,” which was recorded with members of Bon Iver and Megafaun. One of his dates is a stop at Mumford & Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road traveling festival. Another of the dates is a free show at 7 p.m. Thursday (June 11) at Gulley Park in Fayetteville. It’s part of the Gulley Park Summer Concert Series. Bring you lawn chairs or blanket.

Soon in tunes: Canatlouper, June 10 at George’s

June 9th, 2015 at 1:57 pm



Missouri quartet Cantalouper just released its newest recording, “Reproduction,” in early May. The band, which describes its sound as “new wavey, shoegazy, feel goody,” visits Fayetteville for a midweek show at George’s Majestic Lounge. Joining in for the 8 p.m. Wednesday (June 10) set are locals The Brothel Sprouts and Dividend. Admission is $5.

Photos from Wakarusa

June 8th, 2015 at 11:57 am

Have you looked at our Wakarusa photos yet?

I sent out a link to them yesterday, but I think they deserve a little more attention. Credit for the majority of them goes to intrepid photographer Michael Woods, who took time off his busy scheduling of shooting Arkansas Razorback baseball games to be down on the mountain.

I contributed several as well.

The images come from the four-day event, which concluded yesterday at the Mulberry Mountain event grounds near Ozark. Included are photos of headlining acts such as Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, STS9, Umphrey’s McGee, The Roots and more. Also included are images of Wakaruvians being Wakaruvians and some of the quirky things discovered on the festival grounds.

See them below as a slideshow, or look through them as a gallery, if you prefer. It’s more than 300 photos, so make sure to grab some popcorn first.

Guest from near and far: Wakarusa day 3

June 7th, 2015 at 8:03 pm

Ben Harper at Wakarusa. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Democrat-Gazette.

Ben Harper at Wakarusa. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Democrat-Gazette.

Let me talk about the thing I will remember from Wakarusa 2015 for longer than any other solitary moment.

It was right about noon on Saturday. My friends and campmates and I were finishing a late breakfast in our mountainside campground along the treeline of the wooded Mulberry Mountain grounds on Arkansas 23. We had breakfast burritos, and delicious, aromatic bacon.

It smelled good enough to attract one of our neighbors. He or she walked up quietly, curiously. I looked ahead in the treeline and locked eyes. About thirty yards from us, dead ahead and making progress on the breakfast table was this neighbor, a resident of these parts. We were looking at about 300 pounds of Arkansas black bear.

I spotted one once before crossing Arkansas 215 just west of Byrd’s Adventure Center. The description I’d always been provided — that our native black bears look a little bit like large, awkward dogs — seemed true last fall when I spotted that first one.

I didn’t get that impression Saturday. This one was wide, thick, stealthy. It looked dangerous, and I don’t say that because it was near me. It was big, bold — bold enough to walk into a campsite full of loud people.

My friends and I did exactly what we’d been told to do — yell and bang pans. With breakfast still sitting out, we had those handy. The bear turned and ran back into the woods before my friend Antoinette could even get a photo.

Nate Zuercher of Judah and the Lion

Nate Zuercher of Judah and the Lion

Upon hearing the commotion, a group of campers near us yelled too. When the threat was over, one of them asked me if I had seen the little one or the big one. The big one, I told them. They’d seen two different bears over the course of the weekend. The one I saw was plenty, thank you very much.

So it should not surprise you that I left camp not long after that to go see some music.

Here’s what I caught on a warm Saturday at the Wakarusa festival:

Judah and the Lion, 4:20 p.m., Backwoods Stage

It never rained at the festival grounds, but there was a pop-up shower near the festival area that produced some lightning. The strikes were close enough to the festival grounds for music to be shut down for a little bit. I’m not if that’s what caused a series of delays, but every band I watched from that point on that wasn’t on the main stage started well past their published time. Judah and the Lion were among those late acts, beginning a full 25 minutes past their scheduled start time. One of the Nashville group’s songs, “Twenty-Somethings,” explains the band well. They are free spirited, with energy, and with a batch of catchy songs.

Young the Giant, 6 p.m., Main Stage

Sameer Gadhia of Young the Giant

Sameer Gadhia of Young the Giant

If Judah and the Lion had energy, then Young the Giant had, I dunno — super energy? Or at least lead vocalist Sameer Gadhia did. He was all over the place, slinging his hair back and forth and at times, screaming. They performed in the hottest part of the day, too, but that didn’t stop Gadhia.

Givers, 5:30 p.m., Outpost Stage

Black Thought of The Roots

Black Thought of The Roots

I had originally planned to see Louisiana band Givers before Young the Giant, considering they were given a 30 minute earlier start time. But it didn’t work that way, so I went to Young the Giant and took photos instead. When I made it back, it meant the Givers were almost done. But I did get to hear them play “Up Up Up,” perhaps their best song. I also stumbled upon a baby playing with bubbles, so I shot a million photos of him. Are you looking at the NWA Democrat-Gazette’s photos of the festival, by the way? We’ve got more than 300 images filed. You might see yourself there. You’ll definitely see yourself there if you’re the baby playing with bubbles.

The Roots, 8 p.m., Main Stage

I was more excited about this show than almost any other at the festival. Those who see the sillier version of The Roots on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” might have recognized the band on stage during Wakarusa, but only barely. The Roots instead spent much of their 90 minutes jamming, throwing in snippets of recognizable songs by acts such as Led Zeppelin and Guns N’ Roses and songs of their own making, such as “The Seed (2.0).”

Ben Harper

Ben Harper

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, 10 p.m., Main Stage

When Ben Harper performed at the 2011 version of the festival, he did so with the Relentless7 as his backing band. I don’t remember being impressed. Now reunited with The Innocent Criminals, who played their first show together since 2008 just a few weeks ago, it was a turn for the better, I believe. Harper started off singing and performing alone, his band in a line behind them. They were precise while still being improvisational, the mark of a band who despite the freshness of the new performances have a very real chemistry. They were professional, with a heart in jam and soul. They went up and down Harper’s catalog, playing tunes such as “Diamonds on the Inside,” “Amen Omen” and my personal favorite of his songs, “Steal My Kisses.”

And that was a wrap for my Wakarusa. I picked up early Sunday and made the long trip back to Fayetteville. I’m showered and clean and happy. And I was not consumed by a bear, which was nice.

Anyone else have an exciting story from Wakarusa to share?

A warm welcome, continued

June 6th, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Chance the Rapper performs on the main stage of Wakarusa on Friday, June 5. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Democrat-Gazette.

Chance the Rapper performs on the main stage of Wakarusa on Friday, June 5. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Democrat-Gazette.

Let me tell you about the worst part of my day yesterday (June 5), the second day of Wakarusa.

I had to carry 30 pounds of ice three quarters of a mile up a steep hill to my campsite. This was a fate shared by many on a hot summer day on Mulberry Mountain. If you want to keep cool, you had to work hard to do so.

But if that’s the worst part of your day, things aren’t so bad. There’s shade at my campsite. There are nice people surrounding me, nice enough to let me spend 30 minutes waiting for a skunk to meander away from my tent late last night. He didn’t spray. We gave him no reason to be upset.

There’s very little reason to get agitated at the 11th Wakarusa festival, which runs through the early morning hours of Monday (June 8). There is music. There is sunshine — hallelujah! — something has been in short supply at some previous festivals on this beautiful mountain property in rural Franklin County.

Rhett Miller of The Old 97's

Rhett Miller of The Old 97’s

About the music: I saw a lot of it on Friday afternoon, but not so much in the evening. Sitting in a camp chair with music from an unknown band on an unknown stage sounded better than venturing out into the night. So that’s exactly what I did.

Here’s what I took in on a sunny afternoon:

The Old 97’s, 5:30 p.m., Revival Tent

I always forget how much I like The Old 97’s. They play country rock. They play with passion. They play songs about wild nights. What’s not to like in that mix? They scorched through a set in the afternoon.

Jamestown Revival, 7:15 p.m., Revival Tent

I think Jamestown Revival may be the band I discovered courtesy of the festival that will have the most staying power for me. They too play a blend of country rock, although their country influences come from the Bakersfield Sound, and not Texas, like the Old 97’s. The two songwriters in Jamestown Revival were backed by a full band for this show, and they brought a lot of energy to the mix. The song “California (Cast Iron Soul)” is a perfect example of what they are capable of, and I expect good things from them in the future.

Jonathan Clay of Jamestown Revival

Jonathan Clay of Jamestown Revival

Chance the Rapper, 8:30 p.m., Main Stage

Wakarusa upped the production quality this year by adding a large video board behind the main stage. Chance the Rapper used it well in his set, and he also used the whole stage, running back and forth at a frantic pace. Frantic is a good word for his set, too. He flew through sets. He’s fast and smooth.

Music is fast approaching today. I’ve got several things on my calendar, including Donavan Frankenreiter, The Roots and Ben Harper. What’s your schedule look like?